Mount Olive, North Carolina—The North Greenville Men's Basketball Team upset the 9th ranked Mount Olive Trojans 68-66 on Saturday afternoon, earning the team its first ever Conference Carolinas Championship.
NGU fell behind quickly after a 10-2 run from Mount Olive to open the first period. The Trojans were 4 of five from the field knocking down two three pointers en route to a 10-2 lead over the third seeded Crusaders. NGU returned fire, going on a 7-0 run to pull to within one of the ninth ranked Mount Olive basketball team on the heals of two three pointers from Spencer Reaves.
NGU led by as many as five during the period following consecutive three pointers from Micah Parker. The Trojans would hold for the final shot of the half, but a turnover would prevent them from scoring as NGU carried a very small two-point advantage into the locker room.
The second half would resemble a heavyweight fight as both teams threw their best punches but were unable to gain the upper hand. The two squads played to the tune of seven ties and four lead changes during the final period, as both teams battled for the right to raise the championship trophy and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
"They're playing hard," uttered head coach Chad Lister as he knelt by the scorers table watching his team play. The sentence was short, but it couldn't have been more accurate. The Crusaders absorbed every blow the Trojans had to offer, and responded with a counter.
North Greenville led by six points with 4:34 left in the game, but the Trojans, which hosted the tournament as the conference's top seed, would hit back-to-back three pointers to even the score at 60-60, the 11th tie of the game. LaShawn Alexander would give the Crusaders a two-point lead with a layup on North Greenville's next trip down the floor, but another three pointer from Mount Olive would give the Trojans a one-point lead.
True to the flow of the game, the Crusaders answered. Phillip Brown, who had just two points Sunday, made them count as his only basket was a put back off of a rebound that gave North Greenville a 64-63 lead. The Crusaders would gain a three point edge after a pair of spencer Reaves free throws made the score 66-63 with 25 seconds left.
After a Mount Olive timeout, the Trojans worked the ball around the perimeter and McCain hit from the right wing to tie the game. Reaves brought the ball up court for North Greenville and drew contact to get back to the free throw line. Reaves, who finished the day 10-for-10 from the line, hit both free throws to put the Crusaders back on top.
Mount Olive called a timeout after the second free throw and North Greenville followed with a timeout just before the Trojans were going to inbound the ball. The Crusaders denied a long pass and Mount Olive was forced to call another timeout with 1.9 seconds left after an inbounds pass deep in the backcourt. The Trojans inbounded the ball from the sideline and got the pass across midcourt, but a desperation 40-foot attempt was short as the Crusaders stormed the court to celebrate their first ever Conference Carolinas Championship.
The Crusaders entered the 2015 tournament having exited after a first round loss in the previous three previous trips. NGU quickly erased those memories with a first round win over Barton. The North Greenville then took out the first and second seeds this weekend as they earned the title.
Spencer Reaves finished with 23 points to lead all scorers and was perfect from the free throw line for the tournament. Reaves was 10-10 from the charity stripe on Sunday and 3-6 from three point range. Micah Parker scored 17 points for the Crusaders while LaShawn Alexander finished with 13 points. Parker was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
North Greenville's upset win over the Trojans broke a 17 game win streak for Mount Olive, and earned NGU its first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Crusaders will open tournament play on March 14th at 5pm.